It has been a challenging week for me, which is why my post is later than usual. I have struggled and I feel that I need to reiterate that have not written and shared my story (Secrets behind the collar) for any shock value, neither have I shared it to evoke any particular reaction. I wrote it first and foremost to help me to honestly face up to the truth of what happened to me as a child and as a teenager because those events, and holding them secret, have affected the rest of my life.
My hope has also been that my story might help others who have kept similar secrets, to feel strong enough to share them with those who love them most and find peace in doing so.
Since beginning to serialise my story on this site in January, I have received some very positive reactions and even had people reach out and disclose what has happened to them for the first time in their lives.
There have also been reactions which have troubled me. The first of these is silence. Some who have read my story, either in its entirety or as it has been posted week by week have responded with complete silence. It feels like judgement. Then there are those with whom I shared my story prior to January, who told that my secret was safe with them. I know they were trying to be kind and were really well meaning. I am also aware that they would probably be horrified to know that their words just increased my levels of shame and made me feel dirty.
I have been quiet, no, I’ve been silent, on the subject of the sexual assault and abuse I suffered in my younger years, for decades. Holding a secret of this enormity was a huge burden. I’ve also likened it to Pandora’s Box, the lid of which, in February 2020, burst open. The opening was completely beyond my control, but having accepted it for what it was, the unfettering of years of secret pain, in speaking out, I have at last faced head on what happened to me. Of course I didn’t ask for the full scale PTSD, but, with help I have begun to deal with it.
I have begun to deal with it. So many people seem to think that once a person has opened up, has disclosed what happened to them, the issue is then sorted. It isn’t. Disclosure and even working with an excellent therapist is not a magic solution for years of suppressed anxiety and emotions of deep hurt and an even deeper sense of guilt and shame. Coming out and sharing your darkest secret, being honest with yourself and acknowledging what has happened in your past, whatever it might be, allows you to begin dealing with it and to begin to accept that it wasn’t your fault.
It is an ongoing process where you need the positive support of others to help you to continue to move forward.
Nobody should need to hold onto what they have suffered as a dirty secret, nobody should need to live with guilt and shame for what somebody else did to them.
Being honest with yourself is the start, sharing with others is progress, the acceptance and support of others is where the liberation from the bonds of the past begins.